Research Groups

Mechanics and fluidics of development

Our simulations help unravel the molecular mechanisms of tissue formation across scales, from molecular to organism. If the simulated mechanisms are sufficient to bring about the experimentally observed behavior, we can further use the simulation to determine critical mechanisms that are predicted to be necessary for the behavior. For the latter, black-box optimization and design-centering algorithms are crucial.

A current focus is on understanding the role of fluid flow and active cytoskeletal forces in growth and development. In collaboration with experimental groups, we address these questions on the molecular, cellular, organ, and organism levels. On the molecular level, we work with the Zerial lab to understand how self-organization flows lead to domain formation on endosome membranes that generate the mechanical forces for tethering and fusion of organelles. On the cellular level, we work with Knust lab to understand how this sub-cellular organization establishes and maintains epithelial cell polarity. On the tissue level, we work with the Zerial lab to simulate bile flow in mouse liver in order to study its role during growth and regeneration. Finally, on the organism level we work with the Huisken lab to simulate blood flow in developing zebrafish vasculature in order to analyze the relation between flow mechanics and angiogenesis.

All simulations include either fluid flow or active mechanics. These are particularly challenging phenomena for which new simulation methods are required.


  • Prof. Dr. Marino Zerial (MPI-CBG)
  • Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Knust (MPI-CBG)
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Jülicher (MPI-PKS)
  • Dr. Jan Huisken (MPI-CBG)
  • Dr. Jan Brugues (MPI-CBG)
  • Prof. Dr. Stephan Grill (BIOTEC, TU Dresden)
Particle simulation of blood flow in a realistic vessel geometry. The visualization shows the isolines of velocity with flow speed color-coded. Image courtesy of Dr. George Bourantas.